This week was aquarium week for us. My son’s kindergarten class visited the Seattle Aquarium on Wednesday and yesterday my parents and I took my daughter to our little local one. It is only fitting for us to showcase some of the many great picture books about sea animals today. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Share in comments!
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Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae is a happy book full of rhymes about all sorts of sea creatures, including jellyfish. Each page has a rhyming text that goes along with the animal. The book is cute and the illustrations are bright and bold. My son enjoyed it pointing out the animals. That said it’s not a must-buy, more like a great to have on hand when you are specifically learning about the subject.
Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone is a fascinating and beautiful board book. The story follows a little seahorse that hides on each page as it makes its way along the ocean back to its family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins, and other fun and very beautiful hand-stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the present one has so much to look at and marvel at. Kids like finding the seahorse on each page too! My son and I re-read this tonight to my daughter and she liked it but he was still loving it, which is pretty impressive for a board book. It’s just so pretty!
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t lose any of the entertainment in trying too hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell. As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug. The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year, and moving. More than moving it teaches about change. Change is difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable.
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle is a story about the most involved fathers in the sea. Mister Seahorse isn’t the only fish that takes care of his eggs until they hatch, in the book we meet other dads that do too. I didn’t realize how many people don’t like this book until I read some reviews on amazon when ordering the book a few months ago. Many parents are off-put by the father fish who announces he is “babysitting” his own baby fish. It never really bugged me even though when a parent says that in real life it irks me. All the positive daddy fish outweigh that one comment for me.
Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son would think this book was a little young for him. He’s started saying board books are for babies, and he’s a big boy and even though this isn’t a board book it’s simple, big, and bright like one. Nope, he loved it. Little Fish takes the readers on a tour of all the different kinds of fish, the bright fun illustrations are so interesting to look at and choose your favorite fish on each page. The rhymes are fun and when we finished reading my son immediately asked to read it again! Edited for 2011 – now that he is almost 5 he flatly refused to read this with me but his sister who is 14 months liked it!
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright and the eye cut-outs that give readers a sneak peek at what colors are coming next is fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes, and of course counting.
Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes is a funny book that forces readers to look at pet fish in a whole new light. Amos gets caught by a family of fish and they keep them as a pet. This book was a favorite of all my classrooms, children love to imagine other worlds and one where they are the pet is both a little scary and really silly too! I love the message of empathy, and kids grasp it. They see that Amos once caught is sad and depressed in his bowl and that it’s no fun being caged up.
O Is for Orca: An Alphabet Book by Andrea Helman is a book about the nature of the North West packaged in an alphabet book. Each page is dedicated to one large photo and an animal, plant, or other parts of North West nature. While this isn’t just a book about sea animals it is so much more. My son was reluctant at first wanting to read a Star Wars chapter book but only a page or two in he was engaged. Many of the letters represent sea animals like sea stars, urchins, and of course orcas. There are a lot of facts in this book and if I were reading it to my toddler I’d skip the paragraphs and go through the alphabet and each photo only. That is what I love about books like this you can adapt them so easily to your audience.
Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra is a goofy fun book that had me wrapped around its fingers with the title, I mean a fish named Barry? And he has fingers?! I love it. Thankfully my judgment was smack dab on because the inside of the book was as funny as the cover. Barry isn’t just a fish with fingers he is a hero when his fingers save the day. The illustrations are so fun, the text is zippy and both my kids (4 and 10 months) loved it from start to finish.
Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni is a cute book that not only talks about friendship but it also explains the transformation of a tadpole into a frog in an entertaining way. I have used this book in classrooms while doing animal life cycles and kids always love how the fish in the book imagines people as fish with legs. The story of friendship between the little tadpole and minnow can’t be ignored either, it’s a great message about change and the way true friendships can withstand change.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish and after grieving he is reminded of all the wonderful things there are to see and experience in the ocean. When he comes across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knows he can’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean. He rallies them to work as a team and face the big fish head-on. This is a great book for teaching children about the power of working as a group to combat challenges as well as conquering fears.
Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck is one of my favorite books about sea animals. It is about a little boy swimming in the “deep” looking for treasure. Along the way, he encounters different sea animals. The cute kicker is that all along the little boy is really in his bathtub and the animals are just toys. I liked the twist and so did my son who then requested a laundry basket to play bath, funny how he didn’t actually want a bath, a mom can dream! Edited for 2011 – my son rediscovered this book as we were setting up the playroom in our new house. It’s still a hit with him after 2 years.
Fish School by Nancy Poydar is a really funny book that also manages to teach the reader a lot about fish. The story is about Charlie who gets Wishy a goldfish for his birthday and then sets off to teach him all sorts of things. When his class takes a field trip to the aquarium, guess who Charlie pops into a Ziploc and into his backpack. My son loved the silliness of this book as well as the information that is shared as the class progresses through the aquarium. Lots of giggles and learning about sea animals with this cute story.
Baby Beluga by Raffi is a classic children’s song cleverly illustrated into a beautiful book. I grew up on Raffi in Canada and am still shocked when moms don’t know who he is, if he is new to you go to your library and check out one of his CDs. When my son was a toddler he loved this book and all the sea creatures inside. I must say that I am unable to read this without singing the song. It might be a good thing to read it before listening to the song.
Little Shark by Anne Rockwell is a great nonfiction book from one of our favorite authors. Readers follow a shark from birth until it’s full-grown in this book filled with fascinating shark facts. I like that it reads like a story because it sucks the reader in instead of just spouting off cold facts about these cool and scary (to me) animals. I loved that my son was rather shocked that sharks don’t stay with their moms or their many siblings, and are instead solitary. I loved how it explained a little bit about the food chain in the ocean and how we get oxygen from the air but fish get it from the water. Add this one to your shelf.
Trout, Trout, Trout!: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre is not a story but a chanting book. It lists a number of fish found in the United States in a rhyming text. Along with Trip Park’s funny illustrations, the book works although my son didn’t ask to read it again after our initial reading. I like the facts at the back of the book about each type of fish inside and think that any child into fishing would probably be more interested in this book than my son was.
Amos & Boris by William Steig is a touching story about the power of an unlikely friendship and helping others. Amos is a mouse and sailor who is rescued by Boris a whale when he goes overboard in the middle of the ocean. After the rescue, they develop a tender friendship despite their obvious differences and go their separate ways with full hearts. Many years later though it is Amos’ turn to rescue Boris and we are all reminded that size does not equal ability to help a friend.
Ten Little Fish by Audrey and Bruce Wood . The book is a rhyming countdown story about 10 little fish and what happens to them one by one. The illustrations look like an animated movie, and the rhymes are well thought out. My one wish is that the numbers were shown as digits, not simply words so that younger children who can recognize the numbers in digit form but not yet by reading the word could more easily follow along. The ending made me giggle, and you’ll have to grab the book to find out why!This post contains affiliate links
My kids and I love the sea animals books by Suzanne Tate. We have read a lot of them and learn so much with each book. (They are written as stories rather just than being an animal fact book). You can get them on amazon.com – they’re usually part of the buy 3 get one free book program.
What a great list…thanks. I love Stella, Star of the Sea. Sorry I can’t remember the author right now. It’s not about sea creatures but would fit into a study about oceans and the beach. It is such a fun book.
These books look terrific. My toddler is going through a fish phase. We live in the Seattle area and also love the Seattle aquarium. Can I ask which aquarium is the “little local one” you visited with your daughter? I didn’t realize there was another one in the area! Unless, you meant Pt Defiance. We’ve been to that one as well.
Allison McDonald says
It’s the Poulsbo Aquarium – they just got a new octopus !
Great list! We also love all of Ruth Galloway’s books (Clumsy Crab, Tickly Octopus, etc) and Five Little Sharks Swimming in the Sea by Steve Metzger at our house.
I just finished an ocean study for my preschool classroom and wanted to recommend the following ocean related books to the mix:
Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett
Very funny and informative book which underscores the relative size of the blue whale in a way that’s easy for small children to grasp.
Nanook and Pryce by Ned Cowley
A great book if you are exploring continents and ocean currents.
I simply love this collection of books. I am planning a marine life theme this June, and your reviews and list comes in very very handy. Thanks!
This is a great list! I found one similar to the Jan Peck book you have on here. It’s called Rub-a-Dub Sub by Linda Ashman. I’m using it for one of my preschool story times this fall!
Diane Pearson says
I volunteer at my grandson’s preschool when I am school is out
and this is just what I needed a list of books to use with the kids. I remember most of these books from my own children growing up.
Thanks for listing the books as a quick reference sheet and making it easy to know what you need and titles of all the books.